yoga instructor trainingBy Kimaya Singh

How many of your students have insomnia and how frequently do they have it? A conservative statistic regarding adults who experience nights with sleeplessness is 30%. Some people claim the number to be much higher than studies and reports. This subject may not have come up in your yoga teacher training, but you should know which yogic techniques help one get a night’s sleep.  Yoga for insomnia is a viable solution and there are no bad side effects that occur with practice.

General Information

Suffering from lack of sleep can have an impact on every aspect of your life. Your body might feel tired at the end of the day, but sleep will not come. The longer you lie in bed, tossing and turning, the more frustrating it becomes. Your mind starts to race with items on your to-do list or worries about how you will get through the next day on little to no sleep. While it seems the rest of the world is slumbering peacefully, those wracked with insomnia can feel alone, isolated and frustrated. While many turn to medications for relief, yoga can provide a simpler, healthier solution to sleeplessness.

There are a number of causes of insomnia, including stress, hormonal imbalances or changes, medication side effects or other illnesses. Yoga can help, regardless of the cause. Yoga provides a release of stress and energy, along with a calming and clearing of the mind.

A Restorative Sequence Before Bedtime

A series of asanas where the head falls below the heart will allow the body’s blood supply to refresh from the top down, causing your thoughts to calm and renew. Try a standing forward bend, a wide-legged forward bend, head-to-knee pose, and a seated forward bend. Other poses that will bring a sense of calm and sleepiness include reclining bound angle pose, reclining hero pose and bridge pose. A supported shoulder stand will also help get your body ready for slumber.

What About Inversions and High Blood Pressure (HBP)?

To be on the safe side, if you have HBP, prolonged time in an inversion seems too risky.  In this case, supine asanas such as knees-to-chest (Pavana Muktasana), happy baby (Ananda Balasana), and supine twist (Supta Matsyendrasana) are a good start.

Morning Yoga Routines for Improved Sleep

Keep in mind that if your goal is to relieve insomnia, all of the poses do not necessarily have to be calming poses all day long. Sometimes, during the day, it’s necessary to get rid of excess energy and stress through a series of more vigorous poses first, and then end with a few calming poses to seal the deal.  Any vigor work must end a few hours before your sleep cycle.

What you do during the morning and during the entire day will help you sleep. A more vigorous series of poses to start with includes fists of fire lunge, a forward bend, head-to-knee pose and core scissors. Stretch the abdominal muscles and calm down by ending with a core stretch and legs up the wall pose.

If worries are what keep you up at night, try some gentle relaxation at the end of the day. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Try alternate nostril breathing by inhaling through one side of the nose while pinching the other side shut. Hold your breath for a few seconds at the top of your inhale, then slowly exhale through the other nostril. Concentrate on the breath instead of letting your thoughts run wild. Sit quietly, acknowledging the thoughts that enter your mind, but then dismiss them. If it’s helpful, repeat a mantra to yourself, such as, “My mind is calm and ready for sleep.”

Yoga Teacher Notes

A 500-hour yoga teacher training course can’t possibly cover remedies for all of the suffering that people feel around the world, but we can still learn new tricks.  Obviously, Surya Namaskar should be practiced in the morning and not in the evening. Chandra Namaskar should be finished two hours before bedtime. Mild restorative poses can be practiced just before one’s sleep cycle. These same guidelines can be carried over into pranayama. Mild pranayama can be practiced before bedtime, while dynamic pranayama is best during the morning.  Relaxation techniques, which you should be teaching in your yoga classes can be practiced, when sleep is interrupted.  Armed with this, your students will have enough sleep to live healthy lives.  What more could we ask for?

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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